How will RIM define ‘success’ for the PlayBook?


How many PlayBooks does RIM need to sell to be considered a success? The mass media will point to iPad sales numbers and note that the PlayBook sold less (which it will) than the iPad. I expect many in the media to label the PlayBook a failure when it even fails to surpass the Samsung Galaxy Tab in first month sales. But does not being number one mean you’re a failure? To start with, let’s give some tablet sales numbers for context.

The iPad saw very strong sales to start and continued growth through the middle part of 2010 and sales levelling off in Apple’s Q4 (Aug-Oct) — though still impressive.

  • April 3rd – 300,000 WiFi iPads sold on launch day
  • April 8th – 450,000 iPads Sold total 5 days after launch
  • April 10th – 500,000 iPad Units sold in its first week
  • May 3rd – 1,000,000 iPad Users in 28 days since launch
  • May 31st – 2,000,000 iPad Owners after its International Launch
  • June 21 – 3,000,000 iPads in 80 days
  • Thanksgiving – more than 8,000,000 iPads sold
  • The Samsung Galaxy Tab has been on the market for about 2 months and has crossed the 1,000,000 mark in sales. That works out to 500,000 per month in the brief window we have to look at.

    What if RIM sells 250,000 PlayBooks per month? Is that a failure, or a success? Was RIM successful selling mobile phones in 2007? 2008? 2009? Most would say yes, however relative to the top dogs, they didn’t fare well. Nokia sold about 441 MILLION phones in 2009. RIM? 34.5 million. Nokia sold 12 phones for every 1 BlackBerry sold (#2 Samsung sold ~235 million and #3 LG sold ~122 million).

    Ok you say, but RIM sells ‘Smartphones’ not regular old cell phones… Nokia sold 67.8 million of those in 2009.

    So in years where RIM was considered very successful, the market leader sold almost twice as many Smartphones as there were BlackBerries sold… and that’s after RIM had 10 years to perfect devices and gain market share. You can segment a market any which way and come up with a winner and a loser, saying you’re #1 is nice for marketing but doesn’t matter as much in the real world.

    So what does that mean for PlayBook? PlayBook is a tablet not a smartphone. Is PlayBook in the same market segment as iPad? or the Samsung Galaxy Tab? What about all the other Android tablets that are sure to come to market in 2011? Are they all one big market segment or will the market segments get re-defined in 2011 like they were when ‘Smartphones’ were singled out from general mobile phone market?

    What about a ‘Business Tablet’ segment? If RIM sells 250,000 per month in the Business Tablet segment, that’s probably decent, even if in the overall tablet market, they trail the market leader significantly.

    Think about what RIM is actually selling with the PlayBook when it’s released next year, and who their advertising is targeting. The image in the header of this article (from RIM’s website) doesn’t even mention gaming. Just because some media want to put the PlayBook and iPad head-to-head, doesn’t mean the people making purchasing decisions use the same comparisons.

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    2 Responses to How will RIM define ‘success’ for the PlayBook?

    1. RyanH says:

      I figured you would have clarified success for the PlayBook by the reception of the OS. Considering it’s the only thing that will save RIM’s future, the new OS really needs to shine. RIM is touting the PlayBook OS as a powerhouse but if it’s sluggish (like the BB OS) I’ll quickly lose what little faith I have in RIM.

    2. Jeff Bacon says:

      While that’s true, I have little doubt that the OS will actually surprise people in it’s performance as QNX has a very solid history and the OS is not written from the ground up so the maturity of the efficient QNX software will give it a big boost.

      Ultimately though, there’s been lots of cases where bad OS or buggy software has not impacted the popularity of a device due to the end-user not being exposed to the specific bugs of deficiencies (ala just about every J2ME phone ever made). The OS on the iPad hasn’t been spectacular but the end user the device is targetted at doesn’t notice much as it meets thier needs.

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